Parents concerned about reduced police presence at apartment complex

Parents in a housing complex in Elkhart worry that without extra police presence, the summer months could be dangerous.

The issue was brought before the Elkhart Common Council Monday night. A concerned father complained that the paid police patrol, specifically assigned to watch over the government subsidized Washington Gardens apartment complex, was discontinued.

Elkhart City police still patrol the area, however, Washington Gardens is a notorious hotbed for crime. The nighttime detail was paid for by federal grant money.

“It’s no secret that funding is getting more limited, more limited, more limited,” said Elkhart Common Council member, Tonda Hines.

According to Hines, the Housing Authority realized earlier this year that they wouldn’t have the federal funds to pay for the patrols. Hines did not have an answer as to whether or not the Housing Authority would re-instate the program.

Hines said the Housing Authority is in a “conversation” with the city and administration to find a resolution. But fellow council member David Henke believes the council shouldn’t have been kept out of the loop about the safety concerns at Washington Gardens.

Ultimately, it is the Housing Authority that is responsible for the subsidized housing project and hiring patrols. The administration believes that city police already watch over the area.

Some parents worry that without the extra police presence the summertime will be particularly dangerous.

“When it gets hot, it’s time to go in the house,” explained Washington Gardens resident, Latoya Johnson, “The kids can’t play outside because the streets are too hot.” By “hot,” Johnson means dangerous.

Whenever Johnson’s children want to play outside, she said she watches over them. In the past she’s complained to the housing authority about gambling, drug use and violence in the complex, but most of the culprits she believes don’t actually live there.

Washington Gardens is a subsidized housing project, which means that for most residents, it’s one of only a handful of housing options in the city.

The violence Johnson and her neighbors witness gets worse in the summer when more people congregate outside and in the “bays” behind units.

Lela Washington’s grandchildren live in an apartment in the complex and worries about them playing outside.

“I think there needs to be a security guard around the block as much as possible because there’s so much crime going on,” Washington explained.

Even the children living at Washington Gardens are all-too familiar with violence. Twelve year old Tamara Brown said she hopes she doesn’t get shot this summer, adding, “They shoot and stuff, and there’s little kids running around here.”

Under the grant program, paid officers would sit watch over the area. Although they didn’t completely eliminate crime, they gave moms like Johnson a little relief.

“It helps a little bit because some people, when they see them, they just don’t want to be around them, and there’s some people that are just so used to the presence,” Johnson said.

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